Scarlett’s Letter September 28, 2013

I was up early and ready for the flight home. A direct flight from Newark to San Francisco. I slept mostly, blissfully. And I dreamt of reusable Taco Bell burrito wrappers. I can’t explain that.  I still marvel, after all the frequent flier miles I’ve accrued, at waking on one side of the country and having lunch on the other. It still amazes me.

It was an excruciatingly slow drive home from Sacramento, I almost wished I was back in New Jersey, where at least the traffic moves. I identify with Jersey drivers. Like me, they drive with intent, and if you ever spend any time in a car with me at the wheel, you will hear me encourage, implore, even beg other drivers to “drive with intention!” It’s a lot better than some things I could shout at them, am I right? I will happily let people in front of me from driveways, I allow people to merge. Yes, I’m a defensive and sometimes aggressive driver, but I am courteous and safe. I have little tolerance for those who drive fearfully, those who don’t show some assertiveness and especially those who don’t display courtesy. I think drivers should show “assertousy”, equal parts assertiveness and courtesy. And, really, is life itself any different. We should live with intention, pursue our goal assertively and always show courtesy. That’s the lesson in life I considered today, as I listened raptly to Jillian Michael’s on Audible reading her book “Unlimited”. I feel inspired to reevaluate my goals and my methods for pursuing them. I feel energized by her words and energy. She makes sense, and not just related to fitness, food and health, but to life, the universe and our place in the universe. Another book I highly recommend.

When I got home all I could think about was food, like a big, fat hamburger or something equally appalling, especially after spending the last couple of hours immersed in Jillian’s Audible aura. Mom and I decided on Downtown Joe’s, a restaurant and brewery at Main and Second Streets in Napa, right along the Napa River. It was quite warm today, but we preferred sitting outside, along the river, if possible. We were offered a seat with a little umbrella, it needed bussing, first, but was ours immediately thereafter. I let Mom have the two square feet of shade provided by the small market umbrella, the small, poorly designed market umbrella that did not have the option to be tilted so as to provide more shade based on the angle of the sun. I like the sun. I sat in the sun. Mom has had chunks of face and appendages carved off of her in an endless catch up battle with skin cancer. I am probably going to suffer the same plight, but for now, I’ll soak up the sun, but only because of the stupid, little, inadequate market umbrella and because I always have about three layers of SPF on my face.

When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the "Slobber On", because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
When I was younger, but old enough to drink, this was called the Oberon. We called it the “Slobber On”, because we knew we would probably be slobbered on by some guy at some point during the evening.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.
A sunny seat next to the Napa River.

An Effort to Evolve

Sounds good to me!
Sounds good to me!
The "Slobber On", I mean Downtown Joe's bar inside.
The “Slobber On”, I mean Downtown Joe’s bar inside.

Being a brewery, I perused the beer list with great enthusiasm. I decided first on the stout, knowing I’d have to have the porter shortly thereafter, it was impossible to decide on only one at the exclusion of the other. I’d really planned on a burger, but the “Steak and Fritz” caught my eye, a rich sounding mélange of steak, steak fries and gravy. It all lived up to my expectations; the stout, the porter, the very rich and fattening meal. Jillian would probably throw insults at me until I cried if she observed what I just did to myself. Ah, but she is human, too, and I know my limits and I know when, and how, to repent for my occasional sins. And I shall.

BEER MENU!
BEER MENU!
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The Old Magnolia Oatmeal Stout, first. The porter next.
The "Steak and Fritz", more commonly known as SIN!
The “Steak and Fritz”, more commonly known as SIN!
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.
The Overdue Porter behind a wall of fries.

Just not today. It was a simple, but sedentary day. I’d had every intention of working out when I got home, but the two pints of beer and large meal, a very early morning after a fairly short night, a long flight and detailed expense report all interfered. I can do a long, detailed expense report after two pints and little sleep, I could probably run, too, so, I guess it was just a matter of priorities. Running wasn’t going to reimburse me nearly $3,000 for travel expenses this past week. I considered the day a success, at these accomplishments and, my dietary indiscretions still weighing heavily on my mind, I decided to make my late lunch at Downtown Joe’s dinner, too, as I had no desire, initiative, or caloric budget for any semblance of an actual dinner. I just let it go, and sometimes there is wisdom in that.

There are days, most days, where we tirelessly do everything we are supposed to, follow our rules, our plan, accomplish all the things on our never-ending list. Then, there are days where we let a few things go. And that’s okay, if it’s the exception and not the rule. Even highly effective people let things go and they realize the wisdom in that. The “stop and smell the roses” theory. We can be so driven, so on task all the time that we miss the point of our all or action, our activity. The point being, life, and living it. Every now and then, living life to its fullest is sitting still and just breathing, sitting still and just listening, sitting still and just thinking. Just letting it go and gathering it all up again, tomorrow, after some reflection and refreshment, some rest and rejuvenation. And that was this evening’s wisdom. This evening’s to-do list. Nothing. Check.

Scarlett’s Letter August 16, 2013

Have you ever noticed that everyone considers themselves navigational geniuses? Like talking about the weather, the local sports team or the biggest story on the news, people like to share their navigational wizardry. Why? I don’t know. People dictate directions, suggest routes, compare routes and alternate routes. I find this especially tiresome when I am driving in an area I know very well and my passenger insists on a route different than the one I prefer. I also find it a bit tedious when my passenger argues with my navigational gadget of choice, especially when I am trying to hear what my, usually more correct and more direct, navigational device of choice is saying. But worst of all, for whatever reason, is when the navigational wizard is my mother.

Mom and I went to Sacramento today to have lunch with my son and his good friend. My son is moving to Hawaii, with his friend, to go to school, for at least a semester, and if plans fall into place per design, or at least desire, a couple of years. Lunch was great. My day, leading up to lunch, well, you be the judge. It started with a bikini wax. Then an hour and a half car trip with Mom. Then a mammogram. Are we having fun yet?

Like I said, lunch was fantastic! And for me, by this point, well deserved. We went to one of our favorite places. To clarify; my kids and I love this place, Mom is a newbie. Cafeteria 15L in Midtown Sacramento. Their specialty, and the reason we selected this place for lunch today, chicken and waffles. I love chicken and waffles. My mom loves chicken and waffles. My son loves all the leftover chicken and waffles I’ve given him but has not actually ever ordered chicken and waffles for himself. So, that was the plan. Chicken and waffles all the way around. They even had a chicken and waffles face contest! Post your best “chicken and waffle” face and you could win FREE chicken and waffles for a whole year! I was so geared up for chicken and waffles! So, imagine our disappointment when we were told chicken and waffles weren’t served for lunch. They are served for breakfast, brunch on the weekends and dinner. Not lunch.

It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.
It was all about the chicken and waffles. But not for lunch.

We scrambled quickly and all came up with alternate orders. Mom had fish and chips, my son had the pasta special, his friend the Cafeteria burger and I had an heirloom tomato and melon salad. And a side of sweet potato fries as an impulsive, mid lunch addition. Everyone’s meals were devoured and enjoyed. Cafeteria 15L is all about comfort food done with style. The atmosphere is comfortable and the design is noteworthy. It is quite fun to sit and really look at the lighting, the fixtures, the selections for décor. One phrase painted on the wall spurred a lively discussion about the generational preferences for the use of ellipses, for example … I’m a fan. My kids are not. Base on that discussion, I am plaguing my son with texts laced with ellipses, just to be a brat …

My daughter is an English major … she hates ellipses, too … wish she could’ve been here today.

My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale. http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
My heirloom tomato and melon salad with a Rubicon Brewing Co. Monkey Knife Fight Ale.
http://www.rubiconbrewing.com/beer-3/pub/
I recommend SPF 50 - Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.
I recommend SPF 50 – Sweet Potato Fries, about fifty of them.

The dessert menu arrived. We didn’t really need it; dessert. Or the menu. For on the back of all the wait staffs’ shirts was a picture of the featured dessert and it was so over the top you just had to order it so you could take a picture of it and post it on Instagram to prove to everyone you know that you are “that cray cray”. Bacon waffle sundae. A waffle, vanilla ice cream, bacon, maple syrup and caramel sauce. Double decker. We ordered one with four spoons and somehow managed to clean the plate.

So good. So bad.
So good. So bad.

After lunch, we dropped the boys off at my son’s house and headed back towards Napa. If I had a dollar for every mile I have traveled between Napa and Sacramento over the last thirty some years, I’d be a very wealthy woman. I have completely worn out a 1966 Mustang, a 1992 Ford Bronco and three Honda Accords. I’m working on a Civic now. To say I am fairly well acquainted with the traffic patterns is a bit of an understatement. True, there can be daily anomalies, but there are also the daily patterns. Leaving town at 3:30 PM on a Friday afternoon, I really expected to hit quite a bit of traffic in a few key spots on the way home. Mom, in her navigational wizard’s hat, had some crazy alternate route in mind that would have taken a two-hour detour to even begin. I bit my tongue, clenched my jaw, wrapped my fingers tightly around the steering wheel and stayed my course. She fell asleep and we made it home without nary a slow down. It was miraculous! Both the absence of traffic and the sleeping wizard.

With my son’s move to Hawaii, he will not be needing a car. We are car people. My dad loved cars, my son’s dad loved cars (in his own neglectful way), I love cars, every boy I dated in high school and college loved cars, my mom loves cars, the man I love loves cars, my daughter loves cars, my son in law loves cars, our dogs all loved cars. My son loves cars, too. Any car he owns he will practically, if not literally, disassemble and reassemble the whole thing, cleaning each and every part and restoring it to its original condition. He uses only factory parts and fluids and does all his own maintenance and detailing. Tonight, he sold his car and is, for the first time since his sixteenth year, without a car. It was not nearly as traumatic as I thought it might be, I really thought it may be more like the amputation of a limb than a business transaction, but the whole deal went down and the car is presently being driven to Houston, Texas to a fellow Acura Legend fan. Per the Facebook account of the trek, so far they have only received one speeding ticket for 95 miles per hour.

A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
A reflection of the Acura Legend in the Acura Legend door.
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend
The Acura Legend - A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend – A little restoration and repair under the hood.
The Acura Legend - A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend – A little interior work behind the dashboard.
The Acura Legend - Restored seat belt release button.
The Acura Legend – Restored seat belt release button.

I dated one young man after high school who had an amazing car, a 1940’s era Plymouth Coupe, in black, with a personalized license plate that said, simply, “A Shadow”. His father did hot rod and motorcycle customization, including chopping and channeling. Beautiful work. After a few years, about twenty speeding tickets, threatening and menacing letters from the DMV, and endless expense trying to keep an old car running and street legal, the car was sold. An ad was placed in the local paper that said, simply, “A Shadow has been sold.” I wondered if my son would somehow want to communicate to the world, the world who knows him by his car, especially, that the deed had been done. An ad in a newspaper worked well in the 1980’s. In 2013, it was a Facebook post. In both cases, the letting go of something valued, cherished and even a part of one’s identity, while sad, was, and is, the beginning of a new era. Sometimes we have to let go of something, even something we can’t imagine not keeping, not having, in order to take the next, important steps in life. This is, actually, part of life. Those willing to sever those ties that may be holding us back, or preventing us from growing, moving, leaving, changing, are the ones who will evolve according to their dreams, the goals and their passion.  Sometimes we have to let go of one dream to grasp the next.

A Shadow.
A Shadow.

Scarlett’s Letter July 21, 2013

I’m not sure at what point in my life I decided I “needed” to go skydiving. I really had no inclination to do so, ever, until the past few years. It may have begun as a joke with my kids. We decided when my daughter turned eighteen the three of us, my daughter, my son and myself, would go get tattoos, go skydiving and go to a hookah bar, together, all on the same day. For several reasons, it didn’t happen.  Now my daughter lives in New York and my son is headed to Hawaii, so I am left here, with nothing better to do than to go skydiving by myself.

So I did.

I did it in celebration of my fiftieth birthday, actually. I figured, having made it through a half a century, I needed to do something drastic to kick off the next half century. Sort of like a rebirth, or an affirmation of life.

I did a tandem jump, meaning I was firmly strapped to a man who knew what he was doing. How brave is it, really, to strap yourself to someone, pay big bucks to have them fall out of an airplane and guide you safely to earth? Based on the feedback on Facebook, I’d say some consider it brave, some consider it insane, and some do it nearly every day and welcome you to the club. Brave or not, it provides you with the experience of losing control and then regaining control. It gives you enough of an experience to consider being able to do this on your own.

Once someone else does that for you one time, and you are “imprinted” with that experience of loss of control and regaining control, you can more readily take the next step of doing it on your own, perhaps. I am fairly certain I would not have been able to exit the plane on my own. I don’t think they even allow that now. I’m pretty sure you have to do a tandem jump, then take a bazillion classes, and then solo jump. I don’t know, I haven’t’ really checked into it. Yet. The tandem jump worked out very well. He jumped out of the plane and I really, at that point, had very little to say about the whole thing. Having experienced free fall and the feeling of the chute opening, and drifting to the ground while taking in the scenery across three counties, I am quite comfortable with the whole ordeal, I think I could easily do it on my own once I took the required lessons.

Many years ago, before I was ever in the picture, the man I married attempted to sky dive. His twin brother was an avid skydiver, so my husband decided he needed to try. He paid to be taken up in the plane and when it came time to jump, he could not let go of the plane. His fingers were wrapped around some sturdy piece of airplane and could not even be pried loose. He landed with the plane and never made another attempt. And that sums up much about him; unable to let go of the plane. Years later, he took private pilot lessons, at considerable expense. He finally got to the point where he had enough experience to solo, and he kept opting for “just one more lesson”. He never did his solo flight, never got his private pilot license and his training is all expired by this point, I’m sure. More recently, and the catalyst for the death of the already unhappy marriage, was his decision to “day trade”, in his own fashion. After observing the “behavior” of stocks over a very long period of time, he devised a plan where he could make very short trades, purchase and sell again within minutes. I did an independent study of his plan, and a financial model of the potential results. It looked good, it looked like there was considerable potential, so I consented to let him try. He hasn’t worked since. Nor has he made any money since. Every morning, for the next couple of years, he sat in his chair at the kitchen table, disheveled, unshowered, over-caffeinated, and wide-eyed with fear, and he watched the potential trades come and go. He couldn’t let go of the plane. He just couldn’t make the trades, and when he did, he second-guessed himself and bought and sold too early or too late and either made very little, broke even or lost. But he certainly did not replace his income and the empire we’d spent a lifetime building, fell. All because he couldn’t let go of the plane.

Skydiving is interesting. That may seem like an understatement. It is and understatement, and it isn’t. Skydiving is amazing, the adrenaline rush is awesome! But skydiving is also interesting in the way things become interesting when you overanalyze them, like I do pretty much everything.

Upon exiting the plane, free falling is what much of life feels like; you’re out of control and just plummeting. When the ripcord is pulled and the chute deploys, you regain control, you grab the handles and steer yourself to safety. In skydiving, as in life, we are in command, even if we feel like we are in free fall and completely out of control. All we ever have to do is pull that ripcord, grab the handles and steer ourselves safely back to the ground. When do we feel like we’re in free fall? After high school graduation, before beginning college. After college graduation before landing that first job. Any time we leave a comfortable job in quest for new, better, more enriching experiences. Selling a house to buy another. Moving from one city to another. Ending a long-term relationship. Retiring from a long, rewarding career. Receiving a dreaded diagnosis. We are almost always in free fall in some realm of life, or are approaching it. Yet, we usually land on our feet and continue to live.

This applies to just about anything. Change is scary, we are fearful of much in life, and we allow those fears limit us, limit our potential, limit our possibility for growth, fulfillment, happiness and possibly even being able to contribute in a very meaningful way to the world in which we live. Do you think, possibly, there is a scientist out there, somewhere, who has the potential to develop a cure for cancer or AIDS, but is, perhaps, limited by their fear? Perhaps there exists somewhere a gifted leader and politician, someone who is honest and has integrity and could help our divided nation overcome its partisan differences, but because they are limited by their fear, they don’t pursue their gift. What gifts do you have that your fear of change, uncertainty or failure prevent you from sharing?

Whether you decide to skydive in order to fully understand the analogy of free-fall and then regaining control, or whether you just rely on my description of it, do consider finding a way to overcome fears that limit you. My favorite quote by Eleanor Roosevelt has helped me many times over; “Do one thing every day that scares you.” Just let go of the plane.

Tumbling out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air, strapped to a man who, hopefully, knows what he's doing.
Tumbling out of an airplane 13,000 feet in the air, strapped to a man who, hopefully, knows what he’s doing.
Free-fall in skydiving feels a lot like those things in life that scare us, but the view is better.
Free-fall in skydiving feels a lot like those things in life that scare us, but the view is better.
I am obviously having a terrible time.
I am obviously having a terrible time.
The ripcord is pulled, the chute deploys and control is regained. We drift back to the ground safely and enjoy the view across three counties along the way.
The ripcord is pulled, the chute deploys and control is regained. We drift back to the ground safely and enjoy the view across three counties along the way.
We are always in much better control than we think.
We are always in much better control than we think.
The planned landing method, had I known, I wouldn't have worn my MissMe jeans with all the rhinestones on my ass. I don't think I left any glitter behind from my glittery behind!
The planned landing method, had I known, I wouldn’t have worn my MissMe jeans with all the rhinestones on my ass. I don’t think I left any glitter behind from my glittery behind!
No matter how scary life can be, after the free fall, and we pull the ripcord and regain control, we land safely on the ground and are able to walk away. Then we really want to do it again!
No matter how scary life can be, after the free fall, and we pull the ripcord and regain control, we land safely on the ground and are able to walk away. Then we really want to do it again!